Allow me to indulge. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy, long jowled old geezer, I have been meaning to eventually post a rant on cell phones. Given today's local headlines, this is the perfect time.
No phone call is worth someone's life, unless you're dialing 911.
Today's front page headlines are the result of the recent death of a 9 year old girl who was riding her bike in the bike lane near her school, when a driver, allegedly distracted by talking on her cell phone, ran over the girl.
Regardless of the facts, the whole incident brings up an issue that we deal with on a daily basis.
Does anyone remember the days before cell phones? When driving was a singleminded task, and there was nothing else to do except drive, and maybe listen to music or the radio. Phone conversations could wait.
What is it about our lives that we can't slow down our pace and wait until we get home to make that phone call? Can we not do anything without multitasking?
There is nothing that irritates me more when I'm driving than to be behind someone who is going half the speed limit, holding up traffic, so you get around them and as you pass, you see they are deep in a cell phone conversation. Or someone holding the phone up to their ear while they make a left turn across a major intersection. Stupid!
What drives me equally crazy is when I'm running and I need to cross an intersection in front of a waiting car. I want to make sure the driver makes eye contact with me before I cross in front of them. I can't tell you the number of times people are on the phone, yakking away, not even looking, about to turn and plow over you. I don't take a step in front of them until I know they've acknowledged my presence. Often I'll stand there staring right at them, until they notice me. Hello!
Sometimes I have to resist the temptation to thump their car, to wake them out of their oblivion, but I don't do that, because anyone that boneheaded obviously values their own personal gratification and material objects more than anyone else's well-being and probably wouldn't hesitate to pull out a gun. Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly annoyed I'll look right at them and mouth the words, get off the phone! That only works if they're looking at you and they have some conscience left.
The statement these people are making, by talking on the phone while driving half a ton of metal at 50 mph, is: MY unnecessary, self-indulgent, arrogant, petty little phone conversation is so much more important than YOUR life.
Anyone who fails to grasp the responsibility that comes with operating a huge machine at high speeds and can't understand what impact that would have on a human body needs to get out from behind the wheel. If you have any further doubt, go visit some patients in a trauma or neuro ICU, and then follow their progress for the rest of their lives.
Insurance companies could help the situation, if they would include a clause saying that you're not covered if you were on the phone when the accdent happened. Hit people in their wallet, usually that's the only thing that will make them change. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to get phone records to see if someone was on the phone at the time of the accident.
Hang up and drive!
Then there's texting. How ridiculous people look, especially older folks who can't see unless the object is longer than an arm's length away, holding the blackberry out there as they walk down the hall, or looking down their nose through their reading glasses. Texting is great for teenagers, until they reach driving age. Then they need to get over it.
I recently got a Blackberry. But I don't talk and drive. I won't even touch or look at my cell phone if I'm driving. Besides, it's turned off, and 99% of the time I forget to bring it with me anyway. I got it only because I wanted a way to use my email without dragging my laptop everywhere, when I travel, and if I need it in an emergency. I think it will serve me well. I don't use my cell phone and I tell everyone before I give them my number that I often forget I have a cell phone, and calling me on it will not guarantee that I'll get the message. I always have it turned off.
I generally dislike phones and prefer face-to-face conversation, followed by e-mail. I have a hard time believing my eyes when I see people in races talking on the phone too. But that doesn't bother me, because they aren't driving a vehicle at high speeds. I might even use my phone in the upcoming Across the Years race to call home.
What to do about cell phones? My advice is, keep it turned off until you can pull over, preferably out of traffic. Better yet, throw the phone out the window. Who needs it anyway! It's a mindless yakking machine!
Let me say it as nicely as possible:
Hang up the @#$%&*ing phone! And drive!